Modeling the cadmium balance in Australian agricultural systems in view of possible impacts on food quality

W. de Vries, M.J. McLaughlin

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The historical build up and future cadmium (Cd) concentrations in top soils and in crops of four Australian agricultural systems are predicted with a mass balance model, focusing on the period 1900–2100. The systems include a rotation of dryland cereals, a rotation of sugarcane and peanuts/soybean, intensive dairy production and intensive horticulture. The input of Cd to soil is calculated from fertilizer application and atmospheric deposition and also examines options including biosolid and animal manure application in the sugarcane rotation and dryland cereal production systems. Cadmium output from the soil is calculated from leaching to deeper horizons and removal with the harvested crop or with livestock products. Parameter values for all Cd fluxes were based on a number of measurements on Australian soil–plant systems. In the period 1900–2000, soil Cd concentrations were predicted to increase on average between 0.21 mg kg-1 in dryland cereals, 0.42 mg kg-1 in intensive agriculture and 0.68 mg kg-1 in dairy production, which are within the range of measured increases in soils in these systems. Predicted soil concentrations exceed critical soil Cd concentrations, based on food quality criteria for Cd in crops during the simulation period in clay-rich soils under dairy production and intensive horticulture. Predicted dissolved Cd concentrations in soil pore water exceed a ground water quality criterion of 2 µg l-1 in light textured soils, except for the sugarcane rotation due to large water leaching fluxes. Results suggest that the present fertilizer Cd inputs in Australia are in excess of the long-term critical loads in heavy-textured soils for dryland cereals and that all other systems are at low risk. Calculated critical Cd/P ratios in P fertilizers vary from b50 to >1000 mg Cd kg P-1 for the different soil, crop and environmental conditions applied.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-257
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • heavy-metal balances
  • new-zealand
  • potato-tubers
  • phosphate fertilizers
  • soil concentrations
  • trace-elements
  • grazed-pasture
  • united-states
  • wheat-grain
  • lead

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